Sonny Burgess is one of the less-famous artists to come out of SUN RECORDS in Memphis. Known as "Wild Man of Rockabilly," Sonny played and sang loud and loose, or as Colin Escott wrote in his book about Rockabilly, "Road Kill On The Three Chord Highway":
“Here was total abandon: coarse, untutored singing; unintelligible lyrics; ragged drumming; distorted guitar, backed by a wildly bleating trumpet."
(That kind of describes this bastard son of Rock and Roll and Country Music.) Sam Phillips loved it, and after he jerry-rigged a mic in a box to create an Echo-like sound, the artists loved him.
Sonny made a half-dozen records for Sun, but none of them charted, although he swore that his record, "Red Headed Woman," had sold over a 100,000 copies in the rural south circuit he worked, Sam said he knew nothing about it. The only way I can describe it is wild and crazy, sample lyrics from his song, "We Wanna Boogie," are: “Out to the dance hall, cut a little rug/We’re runnin’ like wildfire, and hittin’ that jug.”
One of the old Memphis disc-jockeys told me that Sonny could whip crowds into the frenzy, especially the woman-folk who were known to do some lewd-dancing until the bouncers threw them out. Sonny is an off-the-wall selection for TDR, but as I've mentioned before, we're looking for Rockers in every nick and cranny.
Sonny Burgess passed away at his home in Little Rock last Friday at 88 years of age, complications from a fall...the bane of our senior citizens. I looked pretty deep for a video of Sonny when he was at Sun Records, but I guess 1956 was too early for anyone to film an unknown singer...however, I did find a video of him playing with The Blasters in middle age his biggest selling record that he wasn't paid for, "RED HEADED WOMAN."
I'd love to hear some feedback from those of you who watch it commenting on whether we should have more posts like this. @therealdonrocks